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So, you want to buy a boat? Maybe you are daydreaming of a simpler existence that has meaning and purpose devoid of the shackles of modern consumerism. Maybe you dream about a sleek racing vessel collecting silverware and admiring glances in equal measures. Or perhaps you have seen other people enjoying the water with family and friends and think this is just what we need to bring our family together. Well, my friends, welcome to a world of disappointment and disillusionment because unless you are happy in yourself, the reality is a storm that few escape unscathed.
First of all, no one is going to admire your new craft – quite the opposite they will give you a long list of what they would do if they owned it and they underline this by telling you that they know someone who has something far better anyway. Indeed your first task won’t be the integrity of the hull or the reliability of the engine, sails or whatever propulsion gear you need, but ripping the interior out with the conviction that the original builder somehow skimped on materials and workmanship and you could do a far better job—a fascinating concept when the last thing you made was a teapot stand in O level woodwork. Then to find that the table, loo, cooker and bunk have to be precisely where they were, despite the fact that there are no work surfaces around it or the table can only really ever seat three unless you all move your elbows in a synchronised movement.
As for your rigging, sails and kit, the reason why you languish so far behind the lead boat is that you don’t have a roller bearing main sheet and your Genoa tracks are about as cheap as they make them. Obviously, everything will need to be replaced immediately before you truly embarrass yourself.
Maybe you were foolish enough to think that your partner/family etc. shared your passion for longer than the two weekends it usually lasts leaving you with a vessel that can accommodate a small tribe but you don’t have the confidence or ability to handle by yourself. It’s the reason why so many boats are white in the same way Elephants are.
We haven’t even got as far as the engine or propulsion unit that’s going to whisk you to the land of your dreams, assuming your dream isn’t fully off-grid, or you are not reading a 1960s advert when most boats only came with a bucket and a rope and engines were optional extras. The choice is as endless as their inaccessibility to work on making the most straightforward maintenance task an adventure of removing half the rear of the boat. Maybe you fancy an outboard, but the choice of horsepower, torque curves and propeller pitch leaves you just as bewildered as the world Dolby did on a 1980s stereo.
Of course, there’s always eBay or boat jumbles to really get a bargain from. Only to make you fully understand the just in time economy and the phrase built in obsolesce, when even the smallest mundane part becomes as rare as the proverbial rocking horse on what is only a ten-year-old engine that probably hasn’t done more than 100hrs. This is before you realise that your main dealer who might be able to cure its simple fault is 4 hours away and trying to lift anything over 10 horsepower off a moving boat is beyond the physical and mental capabilities of even the most ardent bodybuilder.
All this fun whilst haemorrhaging money on mooring fees in a location no one seems to like once they have visited it twice, club fees, waterway licences. Meanwhile, the wife/partner, kids all fancy a holiday in Italy this year leaving you to watch other people enjoying their boats on the sun-drenched Mediterranean whilst your own quietly grows algae and weed on a cold, windswept mooring only accessible three hours twice a day and gives you a maximum cruising range to the nearest open pub and back, which is great because you know you’re engine filters need changing, and it’s not pumping cooling water the way it used to, but two hours shouldn’t kill it. You may as well be on the canal where one trip is interesting, two samey, and three on the same cruising ground leaves you wishing for an autopilot.
Ok, I am being harsh on you, and I am only teasing. Buy the boat, it will be the best thing you have ever done, even if the voyage is only to discover who you really are and what you are capable of when you really have to find a way of doing something. You will learn new skills that you didn’t know you had and truly value those precious hours you spend on it away from a world that is currently ebbing away from normality faster than any spring tide. It will provide focus and a sense of purpose. However, always remember it’s yours and what the rest of the world has and doesn’t have should never diminish your enjoyment of skippering your own boat – stay away from those that would seek to dash those dreams and now luckily in our present society that is now law!
Simon Woollen
Published on 2020-09-14